North Carolina K-12 students to have mix of online, in-person classes

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NORTH CAROLINA (WWAY) — Gov. Roy Cooper revealed that North Carolina public schools will be open for both in-person and remote learning in the upcoming 2020-2021 school year.

He made the announcement during a news conference Tuesday.

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Previously, Cooper encouraged school districts to prepare three reopening plans: completely in-person education, a mix of in-person and online education, and completely online education.

The plans were as follows:
Plan A means there will need to be minimal social distancing
Plan B means that there would need to be increased social distancing with schools at no more than 50 percent and buses at no more than 33 percent capacity
Plan C means remote instruction only.

On Tuesday, he said that the state will move forward with Plan B. He also said school districts have the option to choose Plan C if it’s best for them.

Under Plan B, schools are required to follow key safety measures that include:

  • Require face coverings for all teachers and students K-12
  • Limit the total number of students, staff and visitors within a school building to the extent necessary to ensure 6 feet distance can be maintained when students/staff will be stationary
  • Conduct symptom screening, including temperature checks
  • Establish a process and dedicated space for people who are ill to isolate and have transportation plans for ill students
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in the school and transportation vehicles regularly
  • Require frequent hand washing throughout the school day and provide hand sanitizer at entrances and in every classroom
  • Discontinue activities that bring together large groups
  • Limit nonessential visitors and activities involving external groups
  • Discontinue use of self-service food or beverage distribution

In addition, schools are strongly recommended to follow additional safety measures that include:

  • Designate hallways and entrance/exit doors as one-way
  • Keep students and teachers in small groups that stay together as much as possible
  • Have meals delivered to the classroom or have students bring food back to the classroom if social distancing is not possible in the cafeteria
  • Discontinue activities that bring together large groups
  • Place physical barriers such as plexiglass at reception desks and similar areas

The Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit outlines the updated requirements for Plan B.

“We know there will always be some risk with in-person learning and we are doing a lot to reduce that risk,” Cooper said. “But as pediatricians and other health experts tell us, there is much risk in not going back to in-person school.”

He also said North Carolina will remain in a Safer-at-Home Executive Order for another three weeks after the phase is set to expire July 17.

NC Association of Educators released the following statement on Governor’s decision to re-open schools:

“Educators want to be back in school buildings. We miss and value the relationships we have with students and their families. The careful approach Governor Cooper has taken in all of his re-opening decisions has been deeply appreciated, and while we understand that this was a difficult choice, we must make the safety of our educators and students the first priority,” said Tamika Walker Kelly, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators. “Unfortunately, educators and parents have been presented with a false dichotomy: the public schools we love, or our safety. We can have both. In order to safely re-open all schools in a way that will protect the health of both students and educators, a significant amount of resources is required. The General Assembly has simply refused to appropriate them. This General Assembly must step up and do their jobs to provide the necessary funding for public schools so that we as educators can do our jobs to safely educate all of North Carolina’s students. NCAE members have been on the front lines of this pandemic since it began. We have supported and led families through the greatest period of uncertainty of our lifetime. We intend to lead in our communities so that when we see our students and families again, we are able to welcome them into fully resourced, safe learning and working environments for us all.”

State virus trends have been unfavorable in recent weeks, but deaths from COVID-19 have slowed.

New Hanover County Schools will hold a press conference Wednesday morning. Interim Superintendent Dr. Del Burns will answer questions and provide an update regarding the 2020-2021 school year reopening plans.

Brunswick County Schools says changes/updates to NCDHHS safety protocols, feedback from stakeholders, and additional research on each possible Plan B option are being reviewed. A decision will be made by our Board of Education and it will take place in a public meeting format. There is no date scheduled yet for a vote on which option of Plan B to put in place for the district.

Columbus County Schools announced in early June that they will give students the choice for remote learning or in-person classes. Following the announcement Tuesday, the school system released their detailed plan for reopening.